Keyboard vs. Handwriting: Which Is Faster?

When it comes to the “Walking & Working” Content Creator demographic, we wanted to know:

For those workers who actually have to WORK for a living, which data entry method is the most efficient? This question prompted us to devise a series of tests – and the results may surprise you!

The Tests

  • Typing Test to determine Words per minute (wpm)
  • Design Test to assess difference in time to create or edit drawings (such as CAD or PDF markup). For many, this is critical in order to quickly create/edit complex drawings while in the field to present immediately to potential customers, or send real-time revisions back to a central engineering / admin office.
  • Learning Curve Tests – We know that users have different experiences in their learning curves when faced with the use of a new device. Is there a significant reduction in the time to go through the “New-Comfortable-Confident-Proficient” learning curve – depending on the type of device?
  • Adoption Tests / Surveys – Amazingly, workers in different industries will readily accept some technology, while outrightly rejecting others – potentially making or breaking a project. How do we know which ‘orphans’ can expect adoption? (And, yes – The Orphanage reference is intended)

The ‘Typing’ Test – Data Entry Scrutinised

The first test probably comes as no surprise: typing test. However, we had to ensure ‘real world’ accuracy. For these workers (who actually have to work for a living) we had to test our workers in a similar environment in which they will actually be working. For the typing test, this meant one-handed typing. Desks simply won’t appear magically in the middle of the Simpson Desert, while inspecting assets in the field, while providing maintenance on a rig in the middle of a mining exploration site – you get the picture. So, for our tests, we had to ask our workers to hold the device in one hand while typing or writing with the other hand.

I personally tested over 200 workers that fit squarely within the target Workflow Demographic: “Walking & Working” Content Creators. This included project managers, Inspectors, Power Linesmen, Viticulturalists, Nurses, Specialists, Occupational Therapists, OH&S Managers, Field Salespersons, Maintenance Workers, etc.

We firstly had to develop a consistent typing test, but we also extended this test to include workers who created content on the go (such as an inspection report or a Job Safety Assessment) and then used a consistent standard to determine a Words Per Minute (wpm) speed.

Determining WPM: We used a fairly universal measuring standard to determine WPM. A “word” is taken to be five characters long – including blank spaces. It is then a simple matter to time the individual, assess the number of words generated in that amount of time, and then to calculate the final result in WPM.

SAMPLE DATA ENTRY TEST (1,050 Characters)

This is a typing test that tests your typing speed. Typing speed is defined in wpm, which is your typed “words per minute.” A word is taken to be five characters long – including blank spaces. Typing speed can also be defined as strokes typed per minute. However, this typing speed test will determine your typing speed in wpm (words per minute), as soon as you finish typing, writing or Swyping these short paragraphs.

Don’t worry: this test has also been performed by over 200 other persons just like you. This is all in support of a project undertaken by Jeremy Trojcak – founder of – to demonstrate ‘real-world’ data entry speed. You might think this is easy, like 1+1=2, but in reality, the things we need to record involves all kinds of information, symbols & letters! Acronyms, such as TPCIM (rather than typing out the aforementioned website) are increasingly being used. This test is designed to test the wide range of typing often encountered in the free text created by the “Walking & Working” workflow demographic.

The Results

Below are the results expressed in two figures. The first is the current Average taken of all recorded speeds. The next one (in parenthesis) is a speed band into which the majority of those tested fall.

  • iPad / On-screen Touch Keyboard: 14 wpm (Band: 10-24 wpm)
  • Swype-Style On-screen Keyboard: 19 wpm (Band: 10-29 wpm)
  • Keyboard Data Entry: 24 wpm (Band: 20-27 wpm)
  • Tablet PC (via handwriting recognition): 33 wpm (Band: 24-35 wpm)
  • Handwriting on Paper: 44 wpm (Band: 27-55 wpm)

And the winner is: Handwriting!

We found that the most efficient data entry method is actually utilizing Microsoft’s Handwriting Recognition on a Windows-based Tablet PC. This means that handwriting is used for content creation, with the added benefit of immediate conversion into typed text for use within software, database storage, etc.

We have found that IT Professionals in particular find the data hard to believe. In truth, if we were to repeat the tests with a room full of computer nerds, the results would be drastically different.

Herein lies the lesson of these results: we must consult, advise, recommend and procure based on the specific workflow of each workflow group.

What about the other tests?

If you would like to learn about what else we learned from the Data Entry Typing Tests, Design Tests, Learning Curve Tests, and Adoption Tests – CALL ME! I’d be happy to share what we learned and what this might mean for your business.

Jeremy Trojcak
(816) 982-6997

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